Lansing — The House overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to allow police departments to keep records meant to ensure that cops with a history of disciplinary actions or other issues aren’t unknowingly hired in another town where they may repeat the misdeeds.
The measure passed 105-2, with Republican Reps. James Lower of Cedar Lake and Thomas Albert of Lowell voting no. The two-bill package, which the Senate unanimously passed in February, would require police departments to keep records on why an officer resigned so checkered pasts can be transparent to other departments in the future.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsored the plan. There was no debate in the House.
But Lower and Albert both said they think police departments already have ample tools to learn of an officer’s past wrongdoing. It just takes a phone call.
“Obviously the goal makes total sense,” Lower said. “I just think that information is already available. ... You can call their references, you can call their former employer and obtain that information.”
It looked like lawmakers were just creating more paperwork, he said.
Police departments currently allow officers to resign when they face disciplinary action that would result in being taken off the force, but the resignation ensures that no records are kept on the wrongdoing. Legislative supporters argue police officers with a history of brutality or other issues can get hired by new police agencies without new employers being aware of past issues.
The alleged misdeed records are also shielded from open records requests, even when officers “face pending lawsuits stemming from misconduct,” according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis.
In committee meetings on the bill, State Police supported the measure along with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. The Police Officers Association of Michigan opposed the plan.
State Police backed the bill because “it strengthens a police department’s ability to ensure they don’t hire a candidate that was previously employed and allowed to resign under a questionable circumstance,” said spokeswoman Shanon Banner.